Chapter 26 : Aftermath
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When Severus returned with Harry in his arms, Lily was prepared with warmed blankets and clothes. Harry was barely conscious, and Lily and Severus stripped and dried him and bundled him up without him stirring. Lily was extremely grateful Severus had found her missing son. When Severus explained that Harry had found him rather than the other way around, Lily put her arms about him and cried. "I was so scared!" she sobbed. "I thought he was lost to me, not just from the cold, but to madness and now he's home and undamaged except for a mildy drained magical core and slight hypothermia. It's like a miracle, and I stopped believing in those long ago."
"I didn't. The first miracle I ever saw was you awakening from a ten year coma." Severus said softly, gently wiping her tears with his hand. "The second was you loving me."
"Why, Sev?" she asked huskily. "You were easy to love, easier than James because all you expected from me was to be myself. He always wanted me to be someone I couldn't—the perfect pureblood wife."
Harry, who was half-awake and dozing, opened his eyes. "Mum, how come Dad didn't like you the way you were? Was it because he had some dumb prejudice against Muggleborns?"
Severus had always loathed James for his attitude towards women, namely that they were nervous delicate creatures needing a man to lean on and make decisions for them, but he did not say so. It was Lily's place to explain about her late husband to her son, anything he said would look like petty jealousy.
Lily cleared her throat, it was an uncomfortable subject for her, but Harry deserved to know the truth of what had happened between her and James, not a fairytale version. "Well, Harry, it's difficult to explain. Your father was the sort of person who could charm birds out of trees. He was popular, handsome, rich, and many girls in our year in every House fell in love with his devil-may-care image. I was one who didn't automatically fawn at his feet. At first I ignored him, I thought him an arrogant toerag and a spoiled little boy. I guess that sort of attitude, instead discouraging him, made him want me even more.
"I was everything those other little lapdog girls weren't—I was smart, not obsessed with him, and I had loads more magic and a better personality. And I was of his House—a Gryffindor. All of that made perfect in his eyes and he trailed after me for two or three years like an infatuated puppy, trying to impress me so I'd go out with him. The one thing he never liked about me was my friendship with Severus. He hated Sev—thought he was a no-account, greasy, dark Slytherin and unfit to be with the likes of me."
Harry made a strangled noise of disagreement. "He sounds like a royal ass, Mum."
"He was, dear. He tried to run Sev off several times with his little band of friends, all Gryffindor pureblood sycophants, called the Marauders. They claimed they just "liked to play pranks on people" but their targets were often Slytherins or others who were . . . misfits . . . and most of them weren't funny at all, but humiliating. I grew disgusted and I gave him an ultimatium—stop harassing people or I'd walk away and never consider his suit. I never thought he'd do it, but he did. He even left Sev alone, for the most part. I was relieved and thought maybe he could change. It was then that he started courting me in earnest."
"And you believed him?" Harry asked, somewhat incredulously. "How about Severus?"
"Back then we were just friends, Harry," Severus cut in. "I was too busy with my studies and trying to get into a good Mind Healer school to have much time for socializing, and I thought Lily never liked me that way. So I kept my mouth shut and let Potter court her—which was a big mistake, but I didn't know that then."
"Well, your father courted me, and it seemed as if he was trying to change, so I allowed it. It wasn't until I married him that I realized it was all an act. James was very charming when he wanted to be, and I foolish girl that I was, still believed in happily ever after. But he was also a product of his upbringing, and men of his station had been taught their wives were delicate creatures, meant to be protected and smothered in lace and fancy gowns and be ornaments on a man's arm at a dinner party."
"But that's not like you at all, Mum," Harry stared at her.
"I know. But his parents were old-fashioned too, and they believed he'd married beneath them because I wasn't a pureblood from an old family, just a jumped up Muggleborn with pretensions, was how your grandmother put it. They were all scandalized when we married. I thought it meant James really loved me, to defy his family like that. What I didn't realize was that it was simply him getting his way, no matter what. And after a few months, the bloom wore off the rose, as they say, and suddenly being Mrs. Potter, society belle, wasn't something I was suited to. I dressed wrong, and I had the wrong attitude—towards witches, house elves, and Slytherins. I hate all the traditional robes with flounces a witch was expected to wear, and all the proper things a witch was supposed to do and say—like not speak to your house elf like a person, and think all Slytherins were rabid followers of You-Know-Who." She snorted. "I knew better, I'd come from a family without servants and my best friend was a Slytherin boy."
"And they didn't like you 'cause of that?" Harry scowled. "That's just plain stupid!"
"That's prejudice for you, and your father, sad to say, went right along with it. I was always the wrong one."
"But that's not fair!" Harry objected. "Isn't that kind of like Dumbledore not letting me go to Hogwarts because I'm a stormcaller?"
"Yes, and that's why we didn't encourage you to go there," Severus put in. "Despite being the best wizarding school in Britain—"
"You mean the only wizarding school," Lily corrected.
"That's why we kept you away."
"They would have hated me there. And I would have hated them, even if Draco was there with me," Harry said decisively. "They think all stormcallers will go mad and destroy everything. But they're wrong. Out there, facing that blizzard, I learned something about my power and the power of the storm. I learned the key to control was to fight, but to surrender, to become one with nature, and gain control that way. You can't force something as raw and powerful as a storm, Mum, we're not gods, we're conduits for terrible power, and sometimes the best way to control something that powerful is to just become one with it. Those other stormcallers, they never figured it out, probably because they believed they'd go mad no matter what, and they lost themselves inside the matrix. But I won't, not ever again, so I'm not a danger to people anymore."
Lily hugged him, smiling. "I'm so proud of you, son! You succeed where everyone else had failed, and not just because of sheer power or some half-baked prophecy, but because you were smart enough to figure it out. I told your father many times after you were born that everyone was wrong, that having such a power was a gift, a gift needing to be used properly, but he chose to believe what everyone did—that all stormcallers were doomed. That was one of the things we disagreed on—violently. The only one who ever thought I was right was Severus."
Harry looked up at his stepfather. "You were right all along, Dad. I'm sorry I was such a little bugger to you before about it. I shouldn't ever have run away and made you worry."
Severus nodded. "The way you went about it was wrong, but I think you had to get away in order to find out exactly how to control the storm and yourself. Not that I'm advocating running away, mind."
Harry nodded. "Am I in trouble now? Are you going to spank me?"
Lily and Severus exchanged glances. Finally Severus said, "If it were a different reason—like being plain bratty or defiant, then yes, your mother and I would consider it. But because I know the real reason you left—to save your family—I will consider an alternative."
"Like a week without flying and helping me dig out the garden," Severus answered promptly. "Or helping your mum and Lucy around the house."
Harry groaned. "Merlin, but that sucks!"
Severus smirked wryly. "Punishments often do."
"Yes, sir," was all his wayward stormcaller answered.
"Cheer up, Harry," Theo said, entering the room, having heard the last few words between them. "You'll be with me, which wouldn't be the case if you went to Hogwarts with Draco."
"You don't want to go there now, do you?" asked Lily. "Now that you've mastered your power, you could go. If you wanted."
Harry shook his head. "I don't. Not if it's run by a prejudiced old coot like Draco says. If I end up in Slytherin, he'll think I'm dark or something, never mind what I control. And any school that doesn't accept Theo isn't one I want to attend. Are most purebloods all stupid about prejudice?"
"No. Narcissa and Lucius aren't. But a lot of them are. They don't know any better."
"Like my father?"
"He should have, considering who he was married to," Severus cut in.
"But 'tis easy, lad, to hate someone for being different than it is to see the differences as good," Lucy put in, carrying mugs of hot tea for all. "My family was the same when I married Finn and had Theo."
Theo nodded. "Lots of pureblood families would look at me as a disgrace—a Squib with a crooked foot, deformed inside and out, and stupid to boot. Anywhere except here."
"But Theo, you're one of the smartest kids I know—smarter than me sometimes."
"All the time," Theo shot back, grinning. "I have the sense not to run out in the middle of a blizzard!"
"Oh, shut up!" Harry ordered, somewhat embarrassed. "You should be allowed to go to Hogwarts too. After all, they let Remus Lupin go, and he's a werewolf."
Theo snorted. "Uh huh, and I'm just a Squib, who's good enough to scrub toilets, according to them. Least that's what they done to Mr. Filch."
"Dumbledore's an idjit," Lucy cried. "If anyone suggested my Theo be a servant, I'd beat them with a broom."
They all laughed at that.
"We're all of us here misfits of one kind and another," Severus said. "We understand that's it's not how you're born, or what you're born with, that matters, but what you do with what you have. Both of you have learned that lesson very well, and I am proud to call you both my students . . . and my sons."
Both boys beamed, for they knew that Severus Snape never gave idle compliments, you had to earn them.
"What are you a misfit for, Dad?" asked Harry curiously.
"I'm a Slytherin who's not a backstabber or evil. I have ambition but enough to be the best, not to use against others for power. And I love a Muggleborn woman to distraction." Severus replied. "And I have a full-fledged stormcaller as a son and I'm not terrified you'll kill us all in our beds."
"Lucky you," Theo said.
"Very lucky." Severus agreed.
"And you help people, Dad," Harry pointed out. "You don't ignore kids in trouble, you heal them. Even if they think they don't deserve it."
"He does. And that's one reason why I love him." Lily put it. Severus blushed.
Severus shrugged. "That's my calling. I might have ended up doing something quite different—if I'd allowed myself to believe Dumbledore's vision."
Lily put her arm about him. "True, but you didn't. You clung to your principles and your belief in miracles, Severus. And that made all the difference. To both of us."
"And us too," Lucy added.
"I'm not perfect," Severus protested.
"But we love you anyhow," Theo smirked.
Lily grinned. "Speaking of unexpected surprises—Sev and I have one we'd like to share with you. I'm going to have a baby."
"You are?" Theo gaped. "When?"
"In about six and a half months, near as I can figure," Lily answered, beaming.
Harry, who'd already learned about the baby before the killer storm, couldn't resist saying, "Merlin's pants, Mum, but aren't you kind of . . .old for that?"
Lily's eyes narrowed. "Old! Old am I? As compared to what? I'm only twenty-nine, young man, and still young enough to give you what-for because of your cheek, Harry James!" She cuffed him playfully about the head.
He held up his hands, giggling a little. "All right, all right! Don't get your pants in a twist, Mum! I was kidding!"
"Be careful, Harry. That remark was out of line," warned Severus.
"Oops. Sorry. But I really was kidding," Harry said. His green eyes twinkled. "I hope the new baby's a boy."
"Why?" Lily asked. "You don't have anything against girls, do you?"
"No, but I can teach a little brother more things," Harry said. "I'm not like my father."
Was that ever true, Severus thought. Harry was very much his mother's son, in spirit if not in looks. "You can teach a sister the same things."
"Is that what you want, Sev? A little girl?" asked Theo.
"Whatever God sees fit to send us, I'll take," Severus replied. "I'll love her or him either way. As long as my wife is well after the delivery, that's good enough for me."
"What are you going to call the baby, Mum?" asked Harry.
Lily pondered. "Well, I don't know . . . how about Iris, or Irene, for a girl? Or Miranda? Those were your grandmother and great-aunt's names. Or Nicholas, Eric, or Valerius for a boy?"
"After my Prince and Snape relatives?" Severus said, startled. "We barely knew them, Lil. Half of them were dead before we were born."
"That's no reason not to honor them," Lily argued. "But that's a decision to make another day. For now, why don't we drink some tea and play some card games. It's still freezing and flurrying out, so we might as well do something fun."
They all agreed and Severus went to get a deck of cards while Lucy grabbed some snacks from the pantry. Then they all spent the afternoon trying to one up the other in several card games and Harry muched some sweet frosted angel food cake tarts and thought about how neat it would be to be a big brother. He wondered if the baby would have some magical talent, and if so, he would be sure to teach him or her how to use it. He was proud, at last, of his mercurial power, and of being a stormcaller who could use it for good, and for being Lily's son and Severus' as well. There simply was no better family to be a part of, at least according to him. Because it didn't matter about gold, or prestige, what mattered was love, and acceptance, two things which no stormcaller had ever had, and what had made all the difference in his life.
He picked up a card and put it into the discard pile. "I call your bluff," he said to Severus, who winked before turning over his hand.
A/N: So this is the last chapter before the epilogue. What did you think? Have any ideas about the baby-boy, girl, names? Let me know. And thanks for sticking with me through all of this.
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